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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Memorial Day

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Healing of Zen

Everyone needs a safe haven to escape to. It may be a room in one's home, or more ideally, a garden outside. I discovered a space much my accident in a cul-de-sac between two apartment buildings. It was a strange outdoor cubby, which could only be accessed by crawling out to it through the kitchen windows, or through those in the bedroom. Making sure to open the chosen window all the way– a few head bumps later– I crawled out into a strange new world. Since we were on the second floor, this was one from being directly on the roof of our building. It was much like having a side porch, but with the added bonus of total privacy. There was a high wooden fence separating ours from that belonging to our neighbor to the west. From the sounds of it, she could access hers through her kitchen as well, listening to the familiar clink-clinks of dishes being washed in a sink. All above were the roof tops on either side and clear blue open sky. I noticed that the individual who had resided here before had brilliantly installed two heavy-duty hooks– one diagonal from the other– perfectly designed for a lazy swinging hammock. And thus, the "Zen Den" was born.

I really became excited with the possibilities of this secret zen space, so I began to decorate it. I picked out a large, outdoor, bristly throw rug, so it would be inviting to take off one's shoes and stay awhile. I also found a cool vintage table to set drinks and reading materials on in easy reach. I fastened hooks on the fence to hang cheery items: a mini tiki hut and a straw-topped wind chime from Jamaica that used shells for chimes. Although this would mostly be a space utilized in the day, I came across some pleasant outdoor lights – little metal flowers – to festoon across the windowsills leading to the bedroom. Also in order was a seasonal, gaily colored hanging plant that could withstand both shade and heat, requiring minimal care. My mother informed me that begonias would do the trick, so I went with those. I imagined there should be at least one other seating option for a guest, so I invested in a small fold-up camp chair on sale. The pièce de résistance? The hammock. I found one with the brightest colored stripes imaginable, and voila! Other items found their way here in time– a scented candle, four assorted stones arranged in a glass holder, a small clay statue from the Ren Faire in Bristol.

When the spot truly became a haven for me was the day after my grandmother died. I will never forget what a bright shiny day it started out as, that May 29th. A robin crossed my path on my way to my car to go to work. It hopped really close and stared at me for awhile. Odd, I thought. I got the call from my mother while driving. She asked if I could pull over. I told her I couldn't, I was on the highway. When she hesitated to tell me, I made her anyway. She was right about  pulling over. My eyes were so blurred with tears I could barely see. It was a beautiful day out. Gumma was gone. I didn't understand. She'd had a bout with illness shortly after her recent move to the retirement center, but I had a good long talk with her last week. She'd sounded strong. She was anxious to get out and celebrate her 95th birthday with us on June 12.

The next day I was home alone, deep in grief. My partner had asked if I wanted him to change his going away plans for the weekend to stay with me, but I declined. I thought it would be best if I were by myself to process this. And process I did – in my Zen Den. From morning until sundown. I ate meals, read, wrote, did yoga, listened to music, and napped in the comforting rock of the hammock. I sat cross-legged on the new rug trying to make sense of my loss. I looked up at the birds swooping across the sky above me and cried.

Now every year between May 29 and June 12, I reopen the Zen Den for business. I sweep it out of leaves, debris and dirt. I scour it clean with an old rag, a bucket of warm water, uplifting essential oils, and I unpack all the things taken down for the cold season. Six years after the first Zen Den and Gumma's passing, the rug needed to be tossed out. The table – which wasn't really an outdoor one to begin with – started to grow mushrooms on its edges, and the wood began to rot away. I'm not sure what became of the cheap little camp chair? The mini tiki hut and wind chimes have long since been retired, after losing many of their pieces in strong winds that have blown through. I keep meaning to replace things, but haven't quite gotten around to it. Since I've always kept rocks and candles in the space, I wanted to add some natural pool of water or a mini fountain, along with new wind chimes, so that all the four elements are represented.

I have made a point to hang a new basket of flowers in the Zen Den every year, though. Gumma would like that. She loved her flowers so.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    Zen (spirit) is the obvious reality of beings in their very own right - too simple by western terms but in reality is the basis to
  • Colleen DuVall
    Colleen DuVall says #
    Thank you for your input, Tony. The power of Zen is strong!
Pagan News Beagle: Fiery Tuesday, May 19

Once again it's that time of the week: Fiery Tuesday! For today's Pagan News Beagle we've gathered stories from across the web regarding the various political and social issues that have gotten Pagans fired up. Follow the links below to read about animal rights, Memorial Day, environmentalism, and more!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
1914

I've written--earlier, here and elsewhere--about my father's experiences in North Africa and Europe during World War Two. If you've read Rick Atkinson's excellent books (beginning with "An Army at Dawn"), you have an idea of how hard and frightening and wild that whole campaign was. My dad almost died a couple of times but still came home from war full of tales of adventure--a country boy in the ancient homelands. My mother would leave the room when he geared up for another story about Italy and German soldiers and stolen champagne.

I never knew either of my biological grandfathers but my grandmother's second husband was, in every sense, my grandfather.  His war story is different.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Drumbeats on Memorial Day

Many of us have the opportunity to honor lost loved ones on this holiday. I myself lost my beloved grandmother on Memorial Day weekend in 2010. It was always striking to me that she chose then to go, considering that she was a proud DAR sister who would always enjoy the parade. One year she helped scatter flowers from the bridge to float down the Fox River,  in remembrance of veterans lost. I recall attending some of the parades when I was very small and we would go to visit. We would line up in folding lawn chairs along the sidewalk in from of her house, as that was where the parade would march past. I remember getting very riled up when I would hear the first booming of the bass drums and the rat-a-tat-tat of the crisp snares as they approached. I would be hopping from foot to anxious foot, waiting for them to get right up in front of us so that I could be enveloped in the wall of sound and lost in the rhythm of percussive thunder.

If you are one of the fortunate ones who do not have to work on this particular weekend and can get away with friends or family, a tribal drum circle can be a fun and empowering way to bond and raise some major energy. I have employed this at some Memorial Day family gatherings in the past and it proved quite effective. First, make sure that you let everyone attending know in advance to bring noisemakers, hand drums, shakers, maracas, what have you. Bring extras of your own if you sense that guests are in short supply. You can fashion a homemade shaker out of an empty plastic bottle filled with popcorn seeds in a pinch. Ideally, this is an activity best performed after a good feast and everyone's tummies are well-sated. Make sure that everyone has beverages to stay hydrated. Sometimes drum circles can take awhile before they are ready to settle down! If you are able to drum near a lake or other body of water, it can prove very inspiring. My favorite time to start is right at dusk, when the sun is turning the sky to magic time and the moon is on her rise. One year because of various planetary phenomena, the moon was a brilliant shade of pink that I don't believe that I have seen since. 

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Decoration Day-A May-time Dia de los Muertos

Earlier this month I was researching the meaning of May-talk about a magical month rife with folklore and folk magic traditions! I noticed and recollected that many of the themes of May deal with similar themes that we encounter during the opposite time of year-as the sun enters Scorpio and we head into the season of Samhain, All Saint’s Day, and Dia de los Muertos.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Memorare

I have a picture of my dad from the 1940s, looking pretty cocky. He went into the Army when he was 19 and they sent him to North Africa, Sicily and then into Italy. Somehow he also got to France, where he drank champagne for the first time.

So, I'm thinking of him on Memorial Day. And of my Gaga, my step-grandfather, who was gassed in France during WWI and never really recovered. And of my maternal grandfather Bill Boyd who was a sailor during WWI. I have a photo of my grandmother wearing his sailor suit after the war.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thank you, Galina. And the same to yours. Blessings to you--both bright and shadowed.
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Beautiful, Byron. May all your ancestors be remembered, and your military dead honored on this day.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
In Memoriam for Memorial Day

 

As I write this, it's early Friday afternoon and I'm just back from running errands and I'm about to start preparations for a House ritual tomorrow and my Memorial Day observances Monday.  When I was out and about today, several people wished me 'happy holiday' and you know, we all work hard, and I understand the anticipation of a three day weekend, or an unexpected day off, so I returned the greeting but I couldn't help but think "this isn't  a holiday. It's so much more than that." and I wonder if anyone gives any thought anymore to what Memorial Day is really about. 

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